An Aberdare police sergeant has won the opportunity to take on the world’s toughest mountain race in aid of the Wales Air Ambulance Charity.

Richard Gardiner beat off stiff competition to win the Montane Dragon’s Back Race charity place, which was judged by Huw Brassignton, Lowri Morgan, Dean Thomas, Sanna Duthie and ex rugby international Shane Williams.

The Wales Air Ambulance teamed up with the organisers of the Montane Dragon’s Back Race to offer one lucky athlete free entry to compete in the ultra-running race down the spine of Wales.

The winner of the free charity place had to pledge to raise at least £2,000 for the Wales Air Ambulance. Montane Dragon’s Back Race 2022 will take place between September 5-10. Spectators are welcome at Cardiff Castle for the grand finale.

The gruelling challenge is not for the faint hearted – Richard will run from Conwy Castle to Cardiff Castle in just six days – a distance of 380km, or 1.5 marathons a day!

Dad-of-two Richard is no stranger to pushing his body to the limit, he came 13th in the 2007 Flora London Marathon. He started running aged just nine where he joined Aberdare Valley AAC and has competed every year since.

At the age of 13 he gained his first international Welsh School Honours, he later joined Swansea Harries when he turned 16, where he competed for Wales Youth.

He continued to have a successful running career and some of his achievements included: winning two bronze medals in the British Marathon Championships.

At the age of 37 Richard, who is married to Rhianydd, re-joined Aberdare running club, he said: “As a senior athlete I have won numerous races including every Welsh distance running title, jointly winning more Welsh marathon golds than any other runner.  I have represented Great Britain in marathon and half Marathon. In 2011 I won the Commonwealth Ultra Distance Title.”

At the age of 40 Richard then moved to competing in triathlon and Ironman, where he represented Great Britain in triathlon. This was all before retiring into athletics coaching at Aberdare Athletics Club.

The Wales Air Ambulance celebrated its 21st anniversary on St David’s Day. Now operational 24/7, the Charity needs to raise £8 million every year to keep the helicopters flying.

Reflecting on why he wanted to enter the Charity’s competition, Richard said: “It was the first time for a long time that an event inspired me to the point of coming out of retirement at 48.  When I became aware of the opportunity to compete for Wales Air Ambulance, I had to throw my hat in the ring, as an emergency worker with family working for the NHS, I feel honoured to do this event for such an amazing cause. 

“Having unfortunately been in historic situations professionally and whilst out running prior to the availability of this service and since seeing what they can achieve has evidenced personally just how important this service is and how lucky we are in Wales to have it.”

Since finding out that he was chosen to represent the lifesaving charity Richard has started to get back into running.

He added: “I have been running around 70 miles a week, I feel okay at the moment, and i have lost a little retirement weight, but this weekly mileage figure will have to increase significantly as I progress towards the summer months.”

Elin Wyn Murphy, Wales Air Ambulance’s Events and Partnership’s Fundraiser said: “We’re delighted that Richard was chosen by our judges to take on our free Montane Dragon’s Back Race entry place. Richard is hoping to raise £3,000 for our charity which is incredible. By raising funds for the Charity, Richard will help us be there for the people of Wales when they need us the most.

“Richard has come out of retirement to take on the Montane Dragon’s Back Race in aid of the Wales Air Ambulance. His experience as an athlete is phenomenal and we have every faith that he will complete the world’s toughest mountain race.

“Thank you to everyone who has entered the competition, we were delighted to have received your entry videos.

“We look forward to keeping in touch with Richard over the coming months, during his training, and we will be tracking his progress during September. Good luck, Richard from everyone at the Wales Air Ambulance.”

You can show your support to Richard by donating via his Go Fund Me page: Help me raise funds to help save lives in Wales.